Biography of once-notable Senator Tydings


October 27, 1991|By James H. Bready

Forty years have gone by since Millard E. Tydings left the U.S. Senate, 30 since he died, lonely and bitter, at Oakington, his bay-front estate near Havre de Grace. Nowadays, what political orator invokes his name? How often is he cited in editorials? Yet -- with much respect for this state's 1991 senators and governor -- what Marylander today has the national prominence that Tydings held virtually throughout his three decades in Congress?

The man's nature, outlook and especially his raucous battles now will be accessible to later generations, thanks to " 'For Hell and a Brown Mule': the Biography of Senator Millard E. Tydings" (Madison Books, $35), by Caroline H. Keith. Here is a full-length portrait, by a College Park historian; to it she brought understanding, detachment and good words. (The Tydings family prompted the book, but it's no whitewash.)

Tydings was a conservative Democrat in the Southern Bourbon tradition, bright, eloquent, now charming, now acid. He favored governmental passivism. His role in ultimate independence for the Philippines assures him schoolbook mention. Obstructing the New Deal, Tydings triumphed when Franklin Roosevelt tried to oust him from the Senate -- only to go down in defeat when fellow rightists attacked him for refusing to abet their communism phobia. Aloofness toward voters played a part.

Bygones, these (though don't tell those of us present for 1950's Tydings-Butler election that today's political conduct is the vilest ever). Yet " 'For Hell and a Brown Mule' " -- a 1939 Tydings quote -- has modern relevance. At what point (if ever) would a longer-lived Millard Tydings have become a Republican?


From another of Maryland's U.S. Senate races, that of 1986, comes Linda Chavez, the losing Republican, with a national-issue book. "Out of the Barrio: Toward a

New Politics of Hispanic Assimilation" (Basic Books, $23) is anything but party politics; rather, Ms. Chavez iterates a bootstraps remedy for the socioeconomic ills of her ancestral minority. Down with the "victim" attitude and government intervention; up with self-help. Scholar (she is now at the Manhattan Institute) as well as partisan, she notes that many Hispanic-Americans already have entered the melting pot or mainstream. Reply seems likely.


Dance begins with art -- but dance, too, is an outlet for thought and passion on the issues. Anna Sokolow, as dancer, teacher and choreographer, has dwelt on "alienation and protest . . . urban anxiety and deep social commitment."

Larry Warren, professor of dance at the University of Maryland, College Park, and long the director of Maryland Dance Theater, has written an illustrated biography: "Anna Sokolow: the Rebellious Spirit" (Princeton Book Co., $29.95) -- and Miss Sokolow, 80 and a member of Martha Graham's first dance company, is alive to enjoy it.


"Treasures of State," a $95 book picturing the marvelous decor the Diplomatic Reception Rooms at the Department of State in Washington, includes 25 commentaries by experts at 24 U.S. institutions. The one place twice represented is the Maryland Historical Society (Jennifer Faulds Goldsborough and Gregory R. Weidman, on the silver and the furniture). Clement E. Conger, long the rooms' curator, will sign copies of the book Nov. 8 from noon to 1 p.m. at the 14th annual MHS antiques show, Fifth Regiment Armory.

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